The Law of Conservation.

Da_Vinci_Vitruve_Luc_Viatour

 

 

Summer runs along, making you jog and sweat to keep up. And you do. It’s a period of infinite possibilities for us. Freed by the final school bell, we run wild, breathing in the tepid air that feels cool simply because it is untainted by the pace of the mundane everyday. Imagine the twelve months of a year as one single person. If winter signifies helplessness and fragility at the beginning and the end of life, and the monsoons denote the rhythmic hustle bustle of midlife, where you might feel flooded with responsibilities or your life may be a drought of success. That’s why, summer is definitely childhood and teenage,vivacious and carefree. It contains the kind of energy whose source one cannot imagine or recall, once they’re in monsoon or winter, but ache for anyway. You don’t care about the side effects (peeling noses are battle scars, mom) and you’ll have more adventures and make more friends than in the entire year. But that’s summer for you, it is blessed time on our hands, and a chance to do all those things we had been procrastinating over all year, and now have finally run out of excuses to avoid.

This summer is being so wonderfully transitional for me, I’m still using present tense. “Life begins where your comfort zone ends” is easier said than done, but it’s the start that’s always the hardest. What I want to share with you about these past three months are two things; that ran parallel to each other in my day to day life, but intersected and contradicted and even corresponded with each other at times, in my head. The first sprouted from my dreams, but was an event in my external surroundings. Project MAD. The second was a book, that stirred a lot of my deepest convictions, Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. Both these things demanded my time, energy, intelligence, and perseverance. And as I delivered, life began. The comfort zone was too far for me to care by then.

Project MAD {Murals And Doodles} is a social initiative that’s run by college kids. The aim is to paint dirty public walls to keep them clean. We raise our own funds for the paint, and organize everything ourselves. We’ve had our first success last month, and it was my dream come true. Or at least step 1. You see, Project MAD was my brainchild, and it was perfected with a couple of friends, and carried out by yours truly. I’ve wanted to be a social worker since I was 13 years old. I’ve known which college I’d go to, what courses I’d take, and which fields of social work I’ll take. I’ve always told myself there is no other job I’d be more certain of, or happier doing, for 5 years now. Telling myself and anyone who’d listen. So naturally, this nagging doubt in my head kept growing. What if you’re no good at it? What if you can’t inspire people, or handle emergencies, or even manage money selflessly and sensibly? I decided it was never to soon to test the waters. I wanted to start my own social initiative. To prove to myself and everyone that I could plan something amazing, carry it through and hold my own. Enter Project MAD. With two other trusted partners, an assortment of consultants, one very supportive mother, and 60 ‘wallunteers’ in the end, we really did something wonderful. And the best part about it, was knowing finally, that we could do it all over again if we wanted to.

My experience with MAD was that of starting a small business of one’s own. I finally understood the kind of pride one experiences, seeing all your hard work, and love, have a successful outcome, and know that you created it. That you spent hours planning it, drawing others to see why they should fight for a cause that only you can see right now, measure every decision the way a parent would for their child, the kind of eustress that keeps you up and running when you’re live, the fact that you’re the leader and you are treated and behave as such, and the sense of camaraderie between people who care, and therefore there, and the euphoric haze around you even weeks after, even if you think about it, when someone speaks to you about it, demanding to know when the next event will be, all this has taught me a lot. It has taught me, firsthand, the value and joy that work can build, laboriously, brick by brick in you. It’s wonderful.

I’m glad that one of the things I want to work for, is enabling women’s right to work, so they can comprehend what I am feeling now. Everyone should.

This brings us to the second matter of note. Atlas Shrugged. For those who aren’t familiar with Ayn Rand’s writings, hers is a philosophy called Objectivism. It stands on the basic tenets

  1. That the greatest power on earth is man’s ability. To reason. To create. To persevere. This book furthered my conviction that everyone has a specific skill set to utilize, a purpose to work towards, and to derive joy from.
  2. That man is a rational, selfish being. And these qualities have been warped ugly by the gears of the world today. That reason is the only language that should be universal (but isn’t) and that by being selfish, everyone can look after themselves best. Self-preservation is not a sin, it’s a tool for survival, evolution, progress, opportunity.
  3. That sacrifice is the real sin. That by compromising on your best interests, you compromise on your happiness, and this negates the second tenet. Sacrifice, is voluntary plunder, to your own resources for people lesser than you, who will always hold lesser value for those sacrifices.
  4. That man’s need is no rational cause to demand a right. Rights are earned, by those who can afford them. That helplessness, uselessness, inability and suffering are not justifiable causes for the equally dreaded emotion, pity. Rand refuses to stand for man’s need being held as a currency for undeserved goods.
  5. That trade is the only solution to battle sacrifice and need, and that it is by fair trade, that man will truly be happy, while sacrifice and suffering will never suffice. Trade implies that an exchange has been equal, and both parties have benefited. It could be monetary, personal, even intellectual.
  6. That Love, is not a vague, selfless feeling. It is a sum of emotions experienced when you see a reflection of all the values you hold. Whether it is in a partner, work or personal, or even an occupation.
  7. That your happiness is completely and only in your hands. That self-esteem is something that cannot exist if it forms externally. and that if one has an unshakable belief in oneself, they will realize that much of the conflict or fear they would feel previously, is unnecessary or insignificant now.

I have to share one of my favorite quotes from the book, the most relevant to us today,

Dagny, it’s not that I don’t suffer, it’s that I know the unimportance of suffering, I know that pain is to be fought and thrown aside, not to be accepted as part of one’s soul and as a permanent scar across one’s view of existence. Don’t feel sorry for me.

I can only give you a short overview, since it is one of the longest fictional books in this century, at 1,069 pages. Strangely, that never seemed to intimidate me, even though I don’t read such heavy books normally, since the book consumed me entirely. The literature is uplifting, the philosophy discussed is controversial, and the characters are very often idealistic. Like I said earlier, the ideals of Atlas (we’re on first name basis now) have conflicted with all the convictions I’ve believed in, the morals I’ve prepared myself to spend my life uplifting, as a social worker. This began a whole ideological dilemma in my mind, since I had begun nodding in enthusiastic agreement with Objectivism more than I could probably afford.

My questions and doubts have in no way been answered yet, as I write this post, but at least I’ve come to realize a few things. a) I’m 17, if I had life figured out right now, I’d probably have all my fingernails, instead of having chewed them off already. I need to be like wine, keep growing in age, and value. b) No matter what the unquestionably wise and talented Ayn Rand said, there are shades of grey in life. And it’s okay to be okay with them. And most importantly,

c) There is one universal truth, no matter what political or religious or philosophical ideologies you may hold, that is uncontested. That’s Man’s Ability is his greatest Power. Or, if you want to be spiritual about it, that God exists, in Man’s Energy. That all opportunities, possibilities, achievements, failures, the whole world, can be in your power, if you choose it to be, and if you can show that you deserve it.

And this, is something that both MAD and Objectivism had in common. Because I saw that reality is what you make of it, and that I will always be amazed by the lengths that men and women can achieve. The power of Energy is unlimited, and indestructible. And that is the only thing to have faith in.

 

The reason for choosing The Vitruvian Man, by Leonardo da Vinci, in the 15th century, so much older in comparison to my usual choices, is to show you that the Knowledge of Man’s power and potential energy, his perfection in his flawed being, are secrets that have been hiding in plain sight for much too long now.

 

Semper fidelis, ceteris paribus.

The-Lovers-2-Magritte

I’ve wanted to write about love for a while. Since  before Valentine’s Day, since I started this blog a few months ago, to commemorate the end of my relationship actually. But something more (this is debatable) monopolizing, in a teenager’s life had taken over, examinations. Strangely, my ruminations over both have married and made me realize that Economics and love actually have a lot in common.

The time of teenage is a tumultuous period. Your wires are being rewired, up is down , right is left, down is up and you’re mother’s always left. To make matters worse, you’re susceptible to this one illness. Love. Whether it’s the playful puppy kind or the variety that raises an unfamiliar beast in you, it’s inescapable and irresistible. It begins innocently, and slowly reels you in, vulnerable and happy, and before you know it, it gobbles you up like a satisfied Venus Flytrap. You’re a goner then. You’ve fallen, and if it isn’t hard, it isn’t love. The heart takes over the head, the butterflies rule the heart, and that person causing said butterflies has you wrapped around their little finger, and you enjoy it being that way. Love is so familiarly exciting, we need to want it.

Of course, being with someone is not just all fun and games, it’s scary as hell. Giving your heart to another person, letting them hold your affections and your sanity, and trusting them not to toy with it, is terrifying. Do you know why the fourth factor of production, the Entrepreneur is the most profitable? Because according to Economic laws, he is the one that not only puts in the effort and expertise to co-ordinate all other factors, but also he takes the biggest risk. And if it pays off, he deserves most of the credit. Business, is a game of risk.

So is Love.

At this age, we can’t possibly know how to make the right decisions about matters of the heart. We’re still grappling with the eternal questions of what our role in this universe is, what we want for breakfast tomorrow, how on earth can we possibly know where we’ll be, what we’ll want a year from now? Yet, when you look at that person right now, nothing makes you happier. Or braver, while challenging the cruel laws of time. Regina Spektor comes to my rescue once again to turn my wonderment into poetry:

And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else’s heart
Pumping someone else’s blood
And walking arm in arm
You hope it don’t get harmed
But even if it does
You’ll just do it all again

Ceteris Paribus is a common Latin term introducing Economic laws and theories, because it means ‘If all other things remain equal’. Eco, is maths on PMS, with humans and money instead of apples and oranges. There have been rules and patterns, but they can never be written in stone. There are too many factors, too many variables, too much dynamism. It’s trying to make a science out of human desires and respites. Demand and Supply, what more are they, than humans wanting and creating? It’s a vast and complex subject that is concerned with everything from the IMF’s fiscal policy to your month’s grocery lists. It’s…a lot like something else we’re talking about.  That too, counts the Taj Mahal just as beautiful as the first letters exchanged between lovers.

If all other things remain equal, what a simple disclaimer. I will love you forever, if you remain this way, if our fortunes remain prosperous, if no one else comes along. Would it work, if our proclamations of love came with it? Would it mean less, if we can’t give a guarantee for the future, for ourselves. It shouldn’t really matter if the present you is sure of what they feel now, and is ready to keep it that way for as long as possible. You can’t ask for more. At this age, or any for that matter I suppose, there will never be enough wisdom to see through the foolish beauty that is love. It’s not the calculated risk of an entrepreneur, it’s jumping off the cliff, with little protection except for your elasticity to bounce back when you hit rock bottom. But if you’ve ever gone metaphorically bungee jumping, you’ll know it’s worth the view, the exhilaration, the experience.

Semper fidelis, meaning “Always faithful”, is not an economic, but a political-military phrase used to denote the ultimate sense of love and loyalty to one’s motherland. This is the term that has sent scores of men to war, has been embroidered on royal family breast pockets and reminded the bearer that there is a greater power that is worth all pain, sacrifice and gives an unparalleled joy and pride. The term reminds us that love is a force powerful enough to lead us when we no longer know where to go. That love always remembers to pay its dues, and that you will never be alone, if you have in you the strength to care.

But does the term hold true between two individuals? I think it does. When you’re in love, you’re intoxicated by the juices that flow in your bloodstream. The adrenaline when you see them, the cortisol that sends an electric buzz all over you when they hold your hand are all Nature’s ways of telling you that slowly, the renumeration of risk is coming in. That finally, the returns are good. Did you know that dopamine is a hormone that is produced in the first phases of a relationship? It’s what causes the ‘honeymoon’ period, and the lack of which slowly lets the butterflies fly away. Oxytocin, on the other hand, is a more trustworthy hormone. It controls commitment. It’s what is produced when you hug your children and what’s left after decades of letting a romance brew. It’s the feeling of  unconditional love and bliss. As teenagers, should we presume that we can’t have the luxury of experiencing it? I don’t want to think so. I’d like to think we too have the ability to mean it when we say, ‘always faithful’.

Love, is blind. When you look at a person, and you talk to them, and you share, and you laugh, and you care and you desire, when you love that person, you begin to love all they are, the good, the bad and there ceases to be any ugly. It’ll be there, hiding under the dopamine in broad daylight, but it won’t reach your eyes because you will accept them for everything they are. Interestingly, love doesn’t care about love handles. It likes big butts and it’s not lying. It’s not about finding the most beautiful girl or the most dashing boy in the room, it’s about finding the one that speaks to you, and only you so very much that you wonder how no one else can see the sheer perfection you do.

Love is blind in more ways than just that. It robs you of your perspective, logic. You can see nothing beyond the paths with them, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise simply must not understand what you feel. You love them, and then their happiness is yours. It will convince you that people can change, that long distance relationships will work, that they just made a mistake and that your love will last forever.

And the scary thing is, that it quite possibly might. Which is why you will never stop fighting the odds. Which is why you will love that person for as long as you want to. Ceteris Paribus only holds true till it does, because after a certain point Semper Fidelis takes over. Even if that love ends, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t real. Which is why we never give up. Teenagers in love, are a liberated lot, finding a person who just knows them for who they are.

This painting took a long time to find, especially since I didn’t know what I was looking for. Love is a blind person, with hope as it’s guide dog. This painting by Rene Magritte, The Lovers is about being in the dark with a person you’d see even then. 

Trying not to drown in the Arctic Ocean.

Matissedance

I’ve wanted to write this piece for a long, long time. I’ve thought of a hundred different themes, experienced a hundred different beautiful moments that I promised I would feature in ‘my next post’, I even went through another hundred pictures, looking for inspiration for a theme.

But that really wasn’t the problem. So today, here I am, trying again. While I write this, I can’t help but type with the skepticism that this draft will be filed away just like the others. Oddly, saying that out loud, makes me more determined to make sure that this one sees the light of your laptop screen.

Oh, wait I did have a point. Yeah, I wanted to tell you why it’s so important to write this. Or do anything that requires us to get off our posteriors.

At this age, we’re doing it all. Reading books, listening to music, watching movies, TV, learning languages, and some more TV. It’s become an important part of my teenage life, that’s for sure. And we really go all out when dive into the ocean of mass media. It’s a vast, diverse ecosystem down there, and no matter how far we stay there, we’ll never get past the tip of the iceberg (presuming you’re in the Arctic Ocean, for some reason). It’s impossible to read every book on a certain topic, listen to every song of a genre, watch every movie produced in a time period or all the episodes of a series enough to quote stuff on demand. Yet, we swim valiantly, even being naive enough to have favorites and considering  ourselves experts in a field after a little research on wikipedia (yes, know-it-all in my class I’m talking to you. No, wait, that’s…me)

Everytime I start getting cocky and think of myself as a hipster ‘coz of all the kewl music I’ve heard of BEFORE YOU, someone will come around and put me in my place. When I find someone who watches the relatively unknown tv series I worship, I’ll admit, I get jealous. Peasants, stay away from House MD.  I’m constantly making mental notes of books/movies I need to get my hands on to be able to keep up. It’s tough, life as a arts college student. No, I’m kidding, this is the life.

Steering my boat back to the point of being in this ocean, I just want to ask you why we do it. If we’re never going to be able to see/listen to/read everything we want to, why do we even try? I’ll tell you. You’re welcome to try too, but I’m talking right now.

This is, part of living. Experiencing, socialization, taking in. It’s about taking in someone else’s creation and finding more of yourself  in the process. That’s why we cry when characters die, or yell at cliffhangers, really feel lyrics only we can. A kid reads Harry Potter and thinks, ‘I could see myself living in Hogwarts’ or a 20 year old can cry herself to sleep over Simon and Garfunkel, or an entire county can cheer for Aamir Khan, in like, every movie he’s ever in. It’s a release, today’s answer to sitting around fires, dancing and singing. It’s needed, because it makes us happy.

Music for me, like I’m sure it is for a lot of people, is very sacred. I’m highly picky, I consider bonding over shared music as a hallmark of that friendship. And I really think that music, is like people. There are millions of them the world over, each is a little unique, but people try to generalize them anyway. Each song is a beautiful culmination of hard work, love and ingenuity. You can spend all your life looking for one, but never quite strike a chord with whatever you come across. There are bad songs, beautiful songs, empowering ones and then some that help you cry. Some come and become associated with a memory and never really leave you. They both soothe the soul. Add a flow to life. There are so many types out there in the world, that we’ll probably never even touch upon a percentile of the entire mass. Which is why it’s nice to know that of the little you have experienced, you’ve found someone or something nice. Something that makes you feel less alone. Someone you have a story of discovering, appreciating and growing familiar with, over time. See, this is why it’s so important for people to love what they have. There’s a whole world in the Arctic Ocean, but with so much chaos, you have to believe in a little bit of destiny that your life has lead you to the best, for now.

This is why I maintain this…wonderment. That when you become close to someoand you notice that they’re really “different/unique”, they’re not-it’s just that  you connect with them in ways no one else has yet, or that you just got close enough to really recognize who they really are. Everyone is unique (forgive the paradox) you just have to delve deep enough. Isn’t that a scary thought?

“Do you always think this much, Charlie?”

“Is that bad?” I just wanted someone to tell me the truth.

“Not necessarily. It’s just that sometimes people use thought to not participate in life.”

“Is that bad?” “Yes”

“I think I participate, though. Don’t you think I am?”

Bill smiled, and continued asking me questions.

This got me thinking a lot about how every person in this world has a unique point of view, and what may be fun for you may be torture for me. Even then, how much do we participate in our own lives? What constitutes as participation, and who gets to decide that anyway? How much of our memories, and thoughts do we expose to reality and apply them in a scary, practical test? I know that my life is a mixed bunch of incidents, emotions and experiments, and you may think the same for yourself, but I may disagree. And there, is the complexity of pluralism. There’s no one answer, and doesn’t that make it so much more of a challenge, to find yourself and to comprehend the person beside you?

So why am I droning on like this? Because my life could be nothing but a series of hedonistic, pleasure-deriving activities. But according to Dan Ariely, a behavioral psychologist, pleasure can be extended if you experience it in short bursts, rather than making it a habit. And it’s important, to get out of that zone where one takes in, absorbs, but never gets around to giving back successfully. It doesn’t take skill (just a lot of determination and free time) to watch/read/listen to everything you can. What’s difficult, is to use all that you’ve ever felt, and turn it into something tangible, your little two bit. I think that’s why I have a blog, I like the feeling that there is someone, even if it’s just a friend, reading this. It’s a drop in the Arctic Ocean, but hey, that’s how every iceberg started out right?

I don’t really know why I’ve chosen this painting by Henri Matisse, titled The Dance, but I think it was trying to say what I’ve been droning about. The music may be the best, but you have to get up and dance to really enjoy yourself.

An Ungodly Hour

salvador-dali-the-station-at-perpignan

There’s this wonderful song, by a woman named Regina Spektor, called Laughing with God. There are a few lines in that make you sum up the masses’ ideology of God.

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’ve lost all they’ve got
And they don’t know what for

And man, do I love this song. No matter how many philosophical discussions you’ve had about God, and Religion, I’m sure when you’ve been really down and out, and need some luck, you’ve said ‘Oh God, help me’ and really meant it. It’s a natural tendency, in a country like ours, with a temple and/or mosque and/or church in every zip code, often side-by-side. God, or at least his salesmen, are everywhere here. You’ve been conditioned to believe in the concept. This rebellious phase of ‘Atheism’ will fade, snorts your mother.

Have we ever stopped to wonder why:

1. Everyone is so worked up about fictional characters  God

2. Why this generation doesn’t care about said characters

3. Who invited him to planet Earth anyway?

The firmest viewpoint about God is that he/she/it/they are based on irrationality, fear of the unknown and superstition. The concept originally started with a primitive homo erectus hoping for things to work out, for his survival. Maybe just this stone’s throw will bring him his next meal. Maybe the Sun will shine in his favour, and let him live. How are these plants growing from those tiny black seeds? Surely magic was involved. Let’s recreate our steps from last time and hope that it happens again.

And chance reinforced that behavior. They began to pray for anything they didn’t have control over. After all, life was new and confusing for them. So many things they didn’t understand, without the internet at their disposal. There is a demand, for a higher power, some hope that there is someone, out there, in control of this, that can be manipulated with offerings, bribes and entreaties. As ridiculous as it may seem right now, don’t squirm when I remind you of all the times you prayed (I don’t care to whom, the fact is that your hopes were just as primitive as that furry guy then) that that cute kid liked you, that your exams miraculously defy logic and you pass and that, haunting memory of the phone you lost and cried and prayed for it to return.

See, humans work on hope. They understand that life works on two things, Karma, and Luck. If a bird poops on you, there are two ways of looking at it. If you’re a ‘good person’, it was bad luck. If you’ve been a jerk and ridden the train without a ticket that day, it’s Karma. Right? Rationalization for the win, ladies and gentlemen.

Now, to put a logical spin to the chaos and anarchy, we arm ourselves with Science and hope and pray that the world follows our Laws of Physics, and Theories of Psychology. And that we remain on top of things here, that we can control and foresee outcomes, manipulate people to do, act and buy the way we want them to. So that we can challenge this world, simulate nature and strip it bare of all its mysteries. There are a lot less inexplicable phenomenons in the world now, and they’re all guarded heavily by those that don’t want to know. The religious, the yet-to-be-disillusioned and… you? After all, the audience of  a magician knows they’re being tricked. The joy isn’t in finding out how it works, but it letting yourself believe.

Isn’t it easier sometimes, to let yourself believe in Him/Her? To trust this mysterious, all powerful entity that may have the solutions to your problems, provided you please him/her enough. It’s the recipe of all dysfunctional relationships ever, I’m sorry to say. No wonder it’s the longest-standing one. Hope fuels it all~it’s the strongest and most heartbreaking emotions humans could conjure up~that keeps us going, stops us from giving up, moves armies and scared children alike. It’s a powerful emotion, and it’s dangerous in the hands of one single God that we let control us. We want to know that it’ll be okay, beyond all reason. That there is a higher power, a method to this madness, a puppeteer who knows the lyrics to your life, a mother who can kiss the boo-boos away.

This seems like a good time to tell you that I personally identify with the Agnostic system of beliefs. That we don’t have the right to make up our own rules about how the world works, but we don’t have the capacity to comprehend it all the time either. It’s nice sitting on the fence here, because you get the best of both worlds. You don’t have to make up your mind, you’re in a state of limbo between keeping the door clamped shut and wide open for everyone. I don’t really think we should bother ourselves too much about things like who’s imaginary friend is better or who has the cooler club house. Religious pride is so counter-productive that it has chased away it’s own progeny they’ve so lovingly cultivated. I would feel sad for them, but I’m too busy worrying how they’ll arrest me tomorrow in case someone sees this post.

Since I grew up in a Hindu family, that was largely disinterested in ritualism and more interested in making clay Ganeshas, lighting floating candles, not crackers for Diwali and focusing on meditation, rather than hours of bhajans, I’ve come to terms with the beauty of the original, simplistic Hindu philosophy that years of Chinese Whispers-playing pundits have contorted into something like the reverse metamorphosis of a butterfly. I believe in souls, reincarnation and karma. I do it, because the world wasn’t meant to be broken down like a Swiss watch, and because it makes me a better human being, gives me a sense of purpose and most importantly, gives me the false hope of some sort of harmony in this haphazard world of ours.

I believe that religion, like love, is a personal thing. It shouldn’t be yelled over loud speakers beyond 10 in the night, neither should it be a reason to harm another human being. ‘God’ created all humans, Man created religion, how do they not understand that? Religion needs to reassess what they’re doing, and what aims they’re serving, and most importantly at what cost. Or, whose. It’s obvious we shouldn’t do all those things, but then why do we? Why do we bully kids in class? Because it’s fun? Because they’re different? We don’t understand them? We’re afraid of what they’re holding out on us? That maybe, if others think their religion is better, would they leave? It’s the dysfunctional relationship syndrome all over again. We crush what we can’t get. I’ve always known there was something wrong with this metaphor. What it really meant was, “If you can’t join them, beat them.”

But is a fear of God really helping us? Does the idea that God is actually us, just purely all the good that is in us, (quite literally, if God was a force of Energy, the way I believe) it would the metaphorical potential in us~will that kind of thought ever be accepted by religion, truly accepted, in a way, that we treat God no different than ourselves, but we treat ourselves with more respect and love, and share that with the person beside us, because everyone has a little God in them.

The picture here is a special favorite of mine, as I’ve seen the real painting in Cologne, while on a school trip. The German-English professor explained that this painting of Dali’s, La Gare de Perpignan was his way of saying, God is me and I am my own God. Do you see the shadow of Christ below the falling Dali-Christ figure?

Epiphanies and Mosquito bites

Image

When I was at camp, I bookmarked almost every wonderful moment I had in my head, thinking ‘this will sound great when I talk about it on the post’. But then I got back and procrastinated for more than a week. All this time, those memories and little mental notes began to fade away like sand and pieces of paper in the wind. I vowed I wouldn’t let that happen, but I’ve always been living the perfect example of What You Shouldn’t Do With Your Free Time.

But nothing, not even my surefire failure to achieve my goals can tarnish Rural Camp this year. There, those 50 people transformed into something else entirely, and thrived as a unit. Let me start at the beginning.

So, about three weeks ago, 50 of my college’s students packed themselves into a bus for a ten day trip off the face of the Earth as they knew it. No cell phones, no newspapers, not even any real electric gadgets or bathroom luxuries. Rural Camp’s main aim isn’t to get you more tanned and worn out with all that manual labour of picking, shoveling and lugging mounds of mud around, though that’s a wonderful side-effect. Camp strips our lives down to the bare minimum of eat, work and play, and there, you find yourself. You find out how easy it is to bond, how sweat and synchronized hard work seals those bonds the way no amount of music sharing  and barista hopping ever could. You find out how selfish you are, when you’re part of a team, or conscientious and responsible you are, when you have a job to do, and definitely how attached your happiness is to the things in your life, instead of the people around you. Happiness in camp was in the little things, like a special set of biscuits for tea or a undisturbed flow of gammies; in cheering for the performances that everyone put up or a relieving massage that ends all  your tension.

We all knew camp would end in 10 days, whether we enjoyed it or not, which made it all the more special for us, specially me. People were high on life at camp, and once you took off your coat of inhibitions, formalities and skepticism, you were 5 years old again, dancing in the rain that smelled of simplicity, joy and productivity that you didn’t even know existed in you.

I love how every morning, when I’d sleepily brush in the open, shivering and consoling myself that there were only __ more days of this, and then I’d be home again, with a flowing tap and controllable room temperatures. But then we’d do Yoga, none of that artsy breathing stuff mind you, this was full on backbone crunching, cursing the instructor and your muscles kind of yoga to get us ready for work. I can’t even touch my toes and I missed it when we skipped it one day. When we began work, I couldn’t catch to save my life. But after that week, I was just as good as anybody else. Sure I had sock-tan marks, which meant that the skin under my socks was several shades lighter, and I had bruises I couldn’t even identify, but the only thing I cared about was making it to the list of Special Mentions by the Camp Secretaries. By the end of the day, I’d be begging for more time here.

Another wonderful thing about camp was that it was a clean slate, you could make yourself into whoever you wanted to. When we were there, I was appointed ‘The Chronicler’ which gave me an identity of sorts, I suppose. It was my job to go up everyday during entertainment and try and be a stand up comedian for 2 minutes, talk about the day-and try not to get booed off. Now, if you know me at all, you’ve probably met my repertoire of lame jokes, and you’d know that this job could be catastrophic, but when I turned it around, and made a reputation for myself with my bad jokes, I found it so much fun. Like I said, camp is what you made of it. And I found myself having pun. The people at camp gave you that freedom to just be yourself, and didn’t poke or prod you to be what it needed you to be. I think the best part of that is that you found yourself becoming the best you without even realizing it. Touché, Rural Camp.

The experiences I had there were just unforeseeable and impossible to have here. Where else would I be up to using a toilet where one didn’t exist or learning to swim in a river, when I question hygiene everywhere I go? But we all did, just fine and that’s the truth. All those people who freak out about double dipping and water from the tap and soiled white shirts and dead phone batteries need to go for camp and realize that, that shit don’t matter. Since I’ve been back, I’ve realized just how out of touch we are with ourselves, our untapped potential and productivity. After camp, I haven’t woken up early or lugged anything more than a packet of chips, shamefully. But that’s considered normal here, in the land where the only exercise we get is our fingers on a keyboard, and hardest worker in the house is the wi-fi. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. 

But isn’t that what Camp teaches you? That you’re in control of your state of mind, and what you want to do with your surroundings. Make lemonade, lemon cake (: or just cringe about how sour they are.

Camp was a revelation to me, that I need to loosen up, learn to sit with life with some Rasna, and laugh together and never, ever sit when you can dance. When I’d talk to people about it before going, they’d freak me out with how excited they were about it, and now I’m right with them. I think that’s beautiful. As it ended, I had to deal with the fact that I was going to be able to shower in a bathroom for as long as I wanted to, sleep alone eat whatever I wanted and depend on a TV for entertainment, and it scared and pained me that it was over. Like the Great Monica Gellar once said, ‘It’s like the end of an era’, granted this was 10 days and that was some years. Campers will know what I mean, especially the ones for whom this was the last one. And the best part about camp is that, it’s never over, it’s all a mind game.

So this Time it’s Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory just to remind us all, that time is relative, and that it melts when you’re lost in the moment. That your memory, is shielded from time, and that’s the best thing about great memories. That when we were at camp, those ten days seemed like an infinity that ended too soon.

Something Something on the Wall

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For years I was nothing but the white sheet that hid me. That fateful day, when she uncovered me, the sun blinded us both for a moment. She held me and even though she could only see herself in me, she liked it. She was so beautiful that day, with her eyes bright and hair flying, the way busy bees look.

She told my keeper that my frame was exactly what she wanted, before buying me. I had no idea I was worth that much. My happiness showed in her face when she looked at me.

I was placed above her dressing table, above her delicate perfume bottles and beautiful jewelery. I had a complete view of the entire room. I’d see her read, sing, sleep, I’d listen to one side of the conversations she had over the telephone. Each day, she’d spend 10 minutes getting ready, looking for something in what she saw. She’d do her hair till it was perfect, her eyes would stare into me while she applied her kajal and she’d always wink and grin before she’d leave.

One day, she took me down and set me on the floor. I could see nothing but the old ceiling fan, spinning away furiously. Then I saw her hand set a paint brush on my cold surface and I watched as she added to me. All this time, I was only what I saw around me. But when she was done, I had something of my own. She had painted a simple pattern around my edges, with a few words woven in. I loved it.

For so long, I could see what she was like when she was completely alone, just herself. She was the kind who always found something to do, and something to smile about. I saw enough TV to know that she was a gem of a person, the heroine of a movie.

Sometimes she’d bring friends over and have so much fun that when she’d laugh, she’d look at me for a second and know that she didn’t have to worry about looking good.

Her easel was placed right opposite me and I was lucky to see some of the imagination that was trapped inside her. She’d paint the most descriptive sceneries and capture real moments with that blessed hand. Colours would splash onto the canvas, they’d be given direction, become shapes, thoughts; the painting would convey an entire story. Sometimes her body would shake with sobs and she’d pour herself a few drinks. The lights would stay on while she’d lay passed out in bed.

I thought her life had taken a slow spiral downwards. The furniture I could see hadn’t changed in years. She’d sit at the dressing table while she drank sometimes, looking for what I don’t know. It was hard to believe she couldn’t find what she was looking for in what she saw. She was losing what she thought she had seen for years in me, because now she found her answers in bottles that she emptied in hours. I adopted her melancholy.

One day something changed, she began dressing up again, going sober, smiling. She came back home one night with the reason for the difference. A man walked in, holding her hand, and called her ‘honey’. Her face blushed more than ever and when she looked at me, I was as relieved as she was.

He moved in with her, breathing new life into the room. But when they’d sleep, I’d see him get up and leave for hours and return just in time for her to wake up. He was obsessed with what he saw when he’d glance at me. But she was too engrossed in him to notice.

One night, I saw her walk in and catch him with another woman. Their shock on being caught was nothing compared to the fear on her face. For the first time, I don’t think she saw an expression she recognized in me. He was kicked out, with every last vestige of his presence wiped away.

That night, she sat at the dressing table, and cried out years of hope and months of happiness out of her system. The expression turned from misery to fury. She stared at me, and yelled out in pain. Her glass attacked me, what she saw was the root cause of her problems. I shattered into a hundred pieces and splayed across her. She picked a piece of me that was once painted blue and held it at her wrist. The blue piece created red splashes on the ground and the rest of me lay there with her, useless and broken.

 

So, the picture here is called, Girl Before a Mirror, by Picasso. It’s really beautiful, how his muse, Marie Theresa looks into the mirror and sees something entirely different from what she is. But for her, it’s not artistic, it’s just tragic. Because one can never really see the whole picture, when they’re just a stroke of paint in it.